It’s the price of admission

The morning of my first-ever trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, one of my many bucket-list level destinations, Wes and I had a terse conversation. We were driving, and interspersed with us talking was Google Maps’ crisp robot female voice instructing us to take this exit, that right, a left in a quarter mile. Our own tones of voice changed as we switched from our own tense conversation to affirming directions; then back to the still, thick air of a not fun conversation. It wasn’t exactly a fight, but a stressful exchange, shaped roughly like health insurance. Because, of course.

The basics were that it was the last day to lock in our market healthcare and it hadn’t happened yet. Meanwhile, because we are us, we were rollicking our merry way toward a trailhead and a day of walking through a world class National Park.

These are decisions we make. We had the wherewith-all to wryly observe this of ourselves even in the moment.

The tension eventually dissipated as we started to form a plan: we’d go to Bryce, hike Fairyland Loop, and then once back at the trailhead at a comfortable 2 or 3pm MT / 1 or 2pm PT (we were getting Nevada insurance, where we are legally domiciled – it was too early to call before the hike) we would use our fancy pocket computers aka phones to call and follow up on our application status, and (fingers crossed) lock in our new insurance.

The rub is that this meant we’d have to go on the hike with this basic life logistic still unresolved, hovering and looming somewhere over and amidst the hoodoos in the views we were taking in.

At the trailhead, I decided to do my best to shove the health insurance stress aside in favor of immersing myself in the place. We walked, gawked, and took photos. One snapshot later ended up serving as a photo reference for my first-ever painting of hoodoos.

When we got back to the truck, we were happily tired and sun/view filled. Tailgate down, water and snacks out, ankles caked in red dust and shoulders sheened with sunscreen, we got a very patient person on speakerphone who walked us through finalizing our insurance. Apparently, some emails were lost to spam, but we’d been approved and just needed to sign some forms and pay. Again, with the miracle of pocket computers, we were able to do this all over the phone with a mix of two phones on the case and Safari, speakerphone, and surprisingly abundant cell service.

Later, when I told a friend on the phone about this not-really sob story, she reacted with immediate and emphatic sympathy: that’s not what that experience is supposed to be about, she said. Meaning, the health insurance monkey wrench was a blight on what is meant to be filed in the category of fun and enjoyment.

What she said helped me realize something, though. The price of admission for the kind of life that Wes and I are choosing is that the day-to-day nuts and bolts and checkboxes and hurdles of modern life are interwoven with what we do with our freedom. Meaning: our lives no longer fall neatly into 9-5pm, 5 days a week, with weekends and evenings for decompressing and fun, and vacation over some weeks a year for pure release. Vacation is kind of all the time, but that also means the Stuff of Existing in Our Modern Age is, too. We’re semi-constantly dealing with vehicle and trailer maintenance, health insurance aka us maintenance, monitoring our spending and income, etc. All of this is intrinsic to most peoples’ lives, of course, but with ours it’s less neatly segmented into categories of work vs off time.

This is teaching me to hold both the supremely enjoyable and inspiring experiences I feel lucky to create and inhabit with a kind of astounding frequency, and some degree of unknown, stress, and discomfort; sometimes all in the same minute, and absolutely within the same day. This isn’t something I’ve been particularly good at before. I like to fully deal with things so that I can move onto the next. But often, these days, I’m just not going to be able to operate that way and still enjoy my life (the to-do list is never ending, as it is for anyone). I just need to accept the constant lingering something, and still be able to enjoy moments for what they are, as they happen.

On that note, we are just back from a five-day backpacking trip that was characterized by both delicious meals and slightly burnt breakfast; incredible lush views but also bad water due to cows; long days of walking that exhausted me in the best way but also parked two giant blisters on my toes; and a beautiful road trip there/back that also had our truck acting up.

Paintings are inevitable. I’m excited to be back at the Mobile Studio and getting to work this week, and I have ideas!

Here are photos from the trip! For anyone interested, this was our route.

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